Chief Justice Says He Won't Back Down on Commandments Issue
August 22, 2003
The associate justices wrote that they are "bound by solemn oath to follow the law, whether they agree or disagree with it."
The state judicial system's web site had this notice concerning the state judicial complex. "The Supreme Court and State Law Library Building is closed to walk-in traffic until Monday, August 25, we will however be accepting telephone calls, telefaxs and emails." Whether or not this message is connected to the movement of the monument is unknown.
Attorney General Bill Pryor said Thursday, "Today is a day to be proud of the eight associate justices of the Supreme Court of Alabama. They have been faithful to the rule of law. There has been a lot of talk about the rule of law in recent days. The law means that no person, including the Chief Justice of Alabama, is above the law. The rule of law means that when courts resolve disputes, after all appeals and arguments, we all must obey the orders of those courts even when we disagree with those orders. The rule of law means that we can work to change the law but not to defy court orders."
Regarding possible fines which may be levied on the state Pryor says he is hopeful that "in the light of this order from the Supreme Court of Alabama and their resolve to enforce this order promptly, that there is no need to go down that road or have that debate." And the governor, in a released statement, said because of the state's financial situation, "the associate justices took the only responsible course of action."
Governor Riley commended Attorney General Pryor for ensuring that "the rule of law prevails in Alabama." However the governor also said he was "prepared to file a brief in support of his appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. Once this case has been appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court and the lower courts' rulings have been reversed, we should not waste one second of time returning the monument to the rotunda."
The governor also stated, "Today is a sad day in Alabama. Because of a series of what I believe to be erroneous federal court rulings, the Ten Commandments monument has been ordered removed from the Alabama Judicial Building. Although I fundamentally disagree with what the federal courts have ordered, the State Supreme Court was correct in unanimously voting to uphold the rule of law."
Only one thing is certain in the case concerning the Ten Commandments monument -- patience is required.
Everyone paying attention to the case had one question following the midnight Wednesday deadline for Judge Roy Moore to remove the Ten Commandments monument from the Alabama State Judicial Building: What's next?
The Southern Poverty Law Center's Rhonda Brownstein is quoted in Thursday's online Atlanta Journal Constitution as saying that on Friday, Moore and his attorneys are scheduled to appear before a private meeting of the judicial ethics panel. The SPLC has filed complaints to the Judiciary Commission because of Moore's statements indicating that he will defy federal court orders.
Tom Parker said Judge Moore "understands that he might have to pay some penalties for the stands he takes, but he's a man of conviction more than a man who just wants to compromise and get along."
Richard Cohen, also of the SPLC said Thursday, "I think at this point Justice Moore ought to resign or be removed from office. He's a disgrace to the bench and I think the unanimous vote of the associate justices reflects that fact...I'm not sure that defying a federal court order is a matter of erring in a single incident. It's contempt of court. It's saying, 'We don't care what your order is. I'm not going to comply.' Justice Moore has thrown people in jail for six months for contempt of court. He was voted in favor of contempt of court citations against lawyers who have acted in amanner contrary to court order. What's good enough for the people of Alabama ought to be good enough for Justice Moore. He shouldn't hold himself above the law."
For the record, the guy sentenced to six months on contempt charges was released after 20 days in jail. The SPLC says it too hopes the state will not have to pay any fines.
Associate Justice Douglas Johnstone said Wednesday he had asked his associates to approve a proposal he had for moving the monument to a more private area of the judicial building. However, Johnstone's motion did not receive the five votes required for approval. Johnstone had hoped this move would stop any fines while the appeals process continued. Judge Moore has said that he would not move the monument elsewhere in the building.
Attorney General Bill Pryor in a letter released Wednesday said the state's high court justices had the authority to overrule Judge Moore on administrative issues according to the Alabama Code.
Pryor quoted the section 12-5-20 of the Code of Alabama. "The Supreme Court shall have the power and authority to review, countermand, overrule, modify or amend any administrative decision by either the Chief Justice or the Administrative Director of Courts.”
Pryor continues, "Under that provision, ' majority of all the justices shall constitute a quorum for such purpose. The concurrence of a majority of all the justices shall be sufficient to determine the question of whether and how such, decision shall be so reviewed, countermanded, overruled, modified or amended.'
And Pryor adds, "The Supreme Court would also have the authority
to direct the Chief Justice to remove the monument through the. enforcement
of a rule under section 6.11 of Amendment 328 to the Constitution
of Alabama of 1901. That section grants the Supreme Court of Alabama
the power to 'make and promulgate rules governing the administration
of all courts.'"
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